The fourth annual A3C Hip Hop Festival, held at Atlanta's CW Midtown Music Complex on March 20-22, saw an otherwise nondescript commercial area come to life with local participants and guests who came from as far away as L.A. and the Bay Area.
The momentum throughout the weekend was pretty strong, though day one at the Center Stage on Thursday got off to a sluggish start. Following an hour-plus delay, the MySpace Kick-Off Party began with D.C.'s much-hyped Wale, who warmed up the modest-size crowd with the help of his full-funk band. By the time true-schoolers Little Brother stepped up, so did the fans for the most energized set of the night.
If Thursday night was an appetizer for A3C, then Friday was when the main course began. The Double Up b-boy battle, held in the loungelike section of the CW Complex called The Loft, saw a heated series of two-on-two battles go down. Back at the Center Stage, the Counter Couture fashion event showcased some of Atlanta's most eclectic DJs and MCs. Here, semi-nude painted models strutted down the stage while groups like the club-meets-backpack act Proton delivered extra-playful performances.
After a well-received set from L.A.'s spirited Blu, the highly anticipated Juice Crew reunion kicked off in the early a.m. Murmurs were heard about Big Daddy Kane's absence yet the smiles and cheers erupted when producer Marley Marl appeared. In the end, though, the reunion was more about nostalgia than quality. Aside from an uproarious guest appearance from Bone Crusher and some on-point raps from the long-retired Roxanne Shante, MC Shan tried too hard to fit in with dirty South style while Biz Markie repeatedly forgot his lines.
Saturday night began with the iStandard production battle in the long, narrow venue Vinyl. The battle boasted an impressive lineup of judges including hit-maker Digga and NYC legend Diamond D; the competitors' work wasn't bad either, ranging from reggae-esque (Stupid Genius) to smoked out and sample centric (Pornstars).
Meanwhile, the Center Stage featured b-boys in action as indie heavyweights Guilty Simpson, Akrobatik and Aceyalone got the energy flowing. Despite A3C's inclusion of mostly underground artists, the Neptunes-produced act Clipse superbly closed out the fest with the Re-Up Gang. Razor-sharp renditions of the hits “Grindin',” “Wamp Wamp” and the fan-favorite “Mamma I'm So Sorry” brought the crowd to a mosh-pit-like frenzy. Amid the energy following the Clipse performance and the entire weekend, it became clear that A3C could very well become America's premier hip-hop festival.